Ezequiel Barco, as we all know, has missed the last three Atlanta United matches for committing an act of indiscipline. His actions may have possibly affected the locker room atmosphere, so Tata Martino has decided to punish him accordingly.
Some may think a three game suspension is too severe, especially in the wake of losing two points in the dying moments of the match against Toronto FC at home.
Martino defended his decision in the press conference after the disappointing draw against Toronto:
”I know soccer is a business and we have to win. But I’m not doing this just because I’m crazy and on my own I decided this player is not going to play and we take him out of the team. There’s a culture that we want to establish in the club—a way of life that we need to install and we would like it to be respected and it goes beyond results. Because imagine if I’m so worried about the result of the match in the weekend that I decide not to take the necessary action for an incident like this, I would be making a mistake. I would basically be saying the results are above the way of life, conduct and image this club wants to have. And for me it is exactly the opposite. Luckily the club supports me and agrees with my decision.”
When asked about when can we expect Ezequiel Barco back, he didn’t get into specifics but hinted he could also miss their next match on August 19th against Columbus:
“Ezequiel has been training. He comes every day and we talk about soccer, but he’s not going to know when he’s coming back. I’m the one that will decide when I think the punishment is fulfilled, and then he’ll rejoin the team. I don’t mind playing without him against Toronto, Columbus and Montreal. I’m not going to base the punishment on who we play next. This is how things have to be, he [Barco] knows that and it’s going to be like this as long as the manager wants, and he has to be ready.”
I know as fans we want to have the best players on the field to compete since we’re in a tight race for the Supporters’ Shield, but it’s refreshing to see a manager step up and say results are not the most important thing. When Barco eventually comes back he will know his place is not guaranteed and I expect him to come back stronger than before.
By benching the most expensive signing in MLS history, the club is sending a clear message that no player is bigger than the team and if you’re going to represent Atlanta United you better do it well—on and off the field.